HP server customers are being urged to download the latest firmware updates and service packs before February 19, after which the IT giant will start to charge customers for accessing them.
Firmware updates and service packs are often required for installing the latest versions of operating systems, for providing support for new features, rectifying bugs and patching security holes.
The change applies to customers who are using HP hardware that is out of warranty and do not otherwise purchase HP's Care Pack Service or extended (paid) support agreements.
Announcing the change in a blog post called "Customers for life", HP vice president for servers and support Mary McCoy says "the decision reinforces our goal to provide access to to the latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property, for our customers who have chosen to maximise and protect their IT investments."
Customers with warranty or service agreements will not have to pay for firmware updates.
HP Proliant server customers that still want the updates will require an active warranty, an HP Care Pack or a support agreement to access the patches, the company's FAQ states.
HP Care Packs tend cost several hundred dollars for low-end machines and thousands for mid-range servers and beyond.
McCoy said the move is not about trying to force customers into purchasing extended coverage.
"That is, and always will be, a customer's choice," McCoy said.
HP rival Dell does not currently charge for its firmware updates for systems that are out of warranty.
Clarification (12/02/2014): HP has released a statement saying it will offer security patches for its servers free of charge, and reiterated that its new charges only apply to its popular ProLiant line.